The Dog Who Came In From the Cold

The Dog who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions, #2)The Dog who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As might be expected from the title, Freddie de la Hay, our Pimlico terrier living at Corduroy Mansions, finds himself on loan to MI6 for some espionage work. Fortunately, we know that whatever might befall, all will be well in the end. These characters are beginning to grow on me: Freddie, of course, and his owner William French -having turned 50 he is having a bit of a midlife crisis, especially where romance is concerned – Barbara Ragg, who seems to have found true love with the Scotsman she met in the last book, and escaped from her former lover Rupert, who covets her comfortable home – Berthia, the sensible sister of Terrence Moongrove, whose innocence and gullibility never fails to get him into trouble – Caroline and her “sensitive” friend James – is he gay or isn’t he? – and the mysterious and elusive Yeti. What all of them come to realize at the end is “There’s no place like home.”

Audiobook narrated by Simon Prebble.

Book description: In the elegantly crumbling mansion block in Pimlico called Corduroy Mansions, the comings and goings of the wonderfully motley crew of residents continue apace. A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the cosmologically correct place for their center for cosmological studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent Autobiography of a Yeti, purportedly dictated to the author by the Abominable Snowman himself. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero Freddie de la Hay—belonging to failed oenophile William French—has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this peerless storyteller.

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Espresso Tales

Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street, #2)Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another reread for me, audiobook narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie. Just as delightful as the first time!

Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Back are all our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh. Bertie the immensely talented six year old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. McCall Smith has much in store for them as the brief spell of glorious summer sunshine gives way to fall a season cursed with more traditionally Scottish weather.

 

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1)44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a reread for me, and one of my challenges for the year is to reread and catch up with this series, as well as focusing on this author in general. I loved revisiting these characters: Pat, Bruce, Matthew, Big Lou, Angus and his dog Cyril, Domenica, Bertie and his overbearing mother…

Pat moves to 44 Scotland Street, moving into an apartment with the very narcissistic Bruce. She is on her “second gap year” from college and takes a job with Matthew, whose very wealthy father has set him up with an art gallery. A painting which might be a Peplow? is inadvertently taken by Bruce and raffled off at the Conservative Party ball. 5-year-old Bertie tries to rebel when his mother forces him to learn Italian and play the saxophone. He is suspended from nursery school, and his mother takes him for psychotherapy with Dr. Fairbairn.

Audiobook narrated by Robert Ian MacKenzie.

 

 

Corduroy Mansions

Corduroy Mansions (Corduroy Mansions, #1)Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Typical McCall Smith. A collection of people / characters with some connection to an apartment block in Pimlico called Corduroy Mansions. Originally serialized on the internet, the rambling structure lacks any sense of a plot. If there is a theme at all, each of these characters is trying to find a sense of connection and companionship in their lives, whether it is the companionship of flatmates, family, pets, co-workers, neighbors, etc. After one book, it has not captured me the way the 44 Scotland Street series has, but I will continue with it and see how it develops.

Description: Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London’s vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There’s the middle-aged wine merchant William, who’s trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William. There’s also the (justifiably) much-loathed Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark; his mother, Berthea, who’s writing his biography and hating every minute of it; and his long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, a literary agent who would like to be his wife (but, then, she’d like to be almost anyone’s wife). There’s the vitamin evangelist, the psychoanalyst, the art student with a puzzling boyfriend and Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier who insists on wearing a seat belt and is almost certainly the only avowed vegetarian canine in London.

Morality for Beautiful Girls

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how Mma Makutsi comes into her own in this book, being promoted not only to assistant detective, but now she is also in charge of running Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and soon has Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two lazy and silly assistants falling in line under her more disciplined hand. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is staying temporarily at the orphanage to recovery from a bout of depression, and becomes involved with the mysterious “wild boy” found out in the bush. Lots of the usual philosophical musings from McCall-Smith’s characters on the nature of morality and other aspects of life. Would have been 5 stars, but I’m not a fan of chapters alternating plot threads which he does in this book.

Book description: Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

Tears of the Giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now this is more like it. Book #2 seemed much more tightly constructed to me. More of the plot threads were carried throughout the book to their conclusion. It is fun to see the connections between the books and the TV series. One major departure from the TV series (spoiler alert!!) is the adoption of two children from the orphan farm by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. But Mma Ramotswe takes it all in stride. There is not yet any interaction between Mma Ramotswe and her first husband, Note Makoti, so it remains to be seen if that is in a future volume or if it was added for the TV series.

Book Description: Precious Ramotswe is the eminently sensible and cunning proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. In Tears of the Giraffe she tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 per cent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tried the audiobook several years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I think the narrator’s accent was hard to understand and I couldn’t follow the rambling lack of plot. Then I watched the TV series and loved it so much I bought it. Charming, funny, with some dark drama, and wonderful photography. It made me want to know more about Botswana. I am also a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series. I watched the TV show again recently with my mom, and she wanted to read the book, so I decided this was a good time to do the same. It’s still charming, but I think it lacks something of the humor and drama of the TV series. The various cases seemed more tied together in the TV series, and we had the back story of her first marriage to Note Makoti underlying the romantic tension between Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matakone. I’m continuing with the second book because the TV series did draw from more than was in the first book, and we’ll see if more of the backstory is there.

Book description: This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.